"Wah-Kom-Sin-Teek" is Navajo for "Starving Artist"
October 18, 2010 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Should I upgrade from a Tablet PC to a Cintiq 21UX?

I have gone from a Wacom Intuos3 tablet, to a Cintiq 12WX, to now a used tablet PC for all my digital arting needs.

So far I have liked the Tablet PC the most (even more than the Cintiq 12, which I found awkward and unergonomic due to its wide aspect ratio). I'd like to increase my working area, though, so the only option left is the larger Cintiq. I like the added pressure sensitivity of the Intuos/Cintiq line over the tablet PC driver, as well as the extra programmable buttons, but I'm still not sure I'm going to be getting that much more than what my current setup gives me.

A lot of reviews of the Cintiq 21UX are by people who got one through their jobs, so they're not feeling the sting of the cost. I want to avoid a MAJOR case of buyer's remorse (which I already feel about the smaller Cintiq, although people seem to think the two models are not remotely comparable...).

Can anyone give a very stark, non-fanboyish breakdown of the pros and cons?
posted by overeducated_alligator to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I've never used a Cintiq, but I own a Graphire and I use a large Intuos III at work. Here's my calculus: Are you doing commercial art? Are you going to be making money with the tablet? If so, how much faster do you think you'll be able to work with the more expensive tablet? That translates directly into "how long will it take you to pay it off?" I'd be willing to bet that you'd get a lot of milage out of the tilt/pressure sensitivity, depending on the kind of work you do. I started with the Graphire and don't always remember to muck with the tilt settings on the Intuos, so I can't speak to that, but the pressure sensitivity is pretty great, and I can definitely tell the difference between the Graphire (256 levels) and the Intuos (512, I think).

The other question is "how much happier will it make me?" and that one's harder to quantify, but no less important. I'd definitely go for a larger surface with pressure sensitivity, but I'm not sure I'd go the whole 9 yards to the Cintiq.

Have you considered an Intuos III or IV? I know you don't see the workpiece directly under your pen with a non-display tablet, but I find that you learn pretty quickly to deal with that, and it does shave about 3/4 off the price. As I said, I've never used a Cintiq, so I'm biased there. I would consider the $2k+ price tag way steep for my use case, though (I don't get paid directly for art).
posted by Alterscape at 8:57 AM on October 18, 2010

It really depends on what kind of work you do. I do a lot of storyboard hand drawing of faces, eyes, poses, eyeball perspective: the sort of stuff I find tricky to get exactly right with an intuos. I never developed the hand/eye skills to get the subtlety of expression I need so the cintiq is an important tool in my kit. If you're just photo retouching or animating symbols in flash, then I'd go for an intuos instead. The intuos has very similar setup options and hotkey buttons as the cintiq.

I purchased the 20wsx a couple of years ago. It's the discontinued widescreen version of the 21UX. I can't speak to why you would have trouble with the ergonomics of the cintiq 12 due to aspect ratio but I can see why working at that small a size would get tiring after a while. It's also too small a screen to have many palettes open. I find the large size of the 20" is great for my back now that I'm not hunched over a drawing table. I'm been very happy with it.

I have an HP tablet pc that I never found very useful because of the lack of shortcut buttons. Also, the cursor calibration would shift slightly between applications, which was the deal breaker.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:49 AM on October 18, 2010

I use a tablet every day for personal and professional work. I have an old Intuos 3 for my workspace. And, an old Toshiba M400 tablet PC for home and travel. I would be classified more as a designer than an artist. I think all my tablet needs are practically the same as an artist except for the pressure sensitivity.

It surprises me that Wacom would put an xga screen in their Cintiq 12WX. I wouldn't use one because for art and design work, higher screen detail is so important. But if a high resolution screen doesn't matter much, dedicated buttons, multiple stylus buttons, and pressure sensitivity is just wonderful. Personally, I need the screen real estate of a higher resolution screen. I also appreciate the beautiful detail a hi-res screen offers.

If money isn't too much of an issue and you consistently work in the same space, I would certainly go with a Cintiq 21UX. With an UXGA screen, there's plenty of real estate to work with. And if the screen is so large that you start seeing pixels even at UXGA, at least you have the great precision of working in such a large format.

I love tablet PC's. So much that it's hard for me to believe that they aren't more popular. I mean really, the tablet PC's are using Wacom digitizer hardware; and it's built right into your laptop! It is so useful and pleasurable to work directly on digital media in a similar fashion as you would on paper.

What blows me away is how far off all the computer companies missed their market for these machines. They are all made for business utility or educational note taking novelty, not for creatives like artists and designers. SXGA screens on tablets seem to have disappeared in 2006. I don't believe you can get a tablet PC with a decent video card.

Often when I'm designing at a cafe or something, it surprises me how many artist or designer will approach me, having never seen a tablet PC in use for creative work. Then they are amazed further when I tell them they can have their own for $300 on ebay. Unfortunately, you can't get a new high-res tablet -- unless you're happy with the latest low precision finger painting.
posted by goodsignal at 11:18 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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